Thursday, December 3, 2015

More of Him, Less of Me

For over a year now, I have not been able to write a blog post, (except for one time when I wrote and lost the whole thing because of a problem with my computer's operating system!).  Many times, I think, "Oh I need to write about this or that," when my attention is needed elsewhere and that potential post gets put on the back burner once again. 

I have been occupied with many things.  Last year at this time, I was expecting another child and worried a lot about the baby and about the pregnancy.  After suffering miscarriages in the past, I did not want to go through that again.  So even though I knew that God would provide the grace for me to get through whatever came, my thoughts were riddled with worry. And, then, seven months ago, our ninth child was born.  Rebekah is a healthy precious baby and I can't seem to get enough of her!

 Of course, our busy schedule of home schooling, extra-curricular activities and household responsibilities keep me away from writing down my thoughts.  When I try to set aside some time to write, my mind wanders and I can't seem to even form a sentence.    But, then there are the times when I honestly think that I don't have anything of value to offer.  I mean, what could a very tired, sometimes burnt-out middle aged mom have to share?  I don't really have it all together.  I'm sure other moms feel like this from time to time, but lately, I've been feeling this every day.

My house is a wreck most days.  Oh, we try to have some clean dishes and clothes, but let's face it.  That is a tall order! As far as getting anything else done, we are hard-pressed to do that.  A great fear of mine is discovering on a Saturday night that my children have nothing to wear to church the next day.  On those occasions, I generally dive into their dirty clothes hampers and do a quick shake or a spot clean and call it good.

Then there's dinner.  Once in a while, I will go simply wild with my cookbooks and online recipes and plan a whole slew of meals for the next two weeks.  But, more often than not, I stress about what we will eat.  We usually eat, but I do tend to serve interesting dishes.  I don't mean gourmet.  I mean leftover leftovers.  I am thankful for my older teenage daughter who is wonderful at baking and is learning to cook.  With my new bundle of joy, I have less hands than before, so I appreciate the extra help.  It is for a season, but it's frustrating when I can't finish preparing a meal. 

Home schooling?  Yeah, well, we are not keeping up with my goals.  I do have high standards.  Maybe not as high as the next person, but I do have ideas as to where I want them all to be.  I love home schooling for the very fact that I know how best each of my children learn.  They are not cookie-cutters.  Each one is quite unique.  They know where to get the information they need for whatever topic they are interested in and they have learned a great deal by this method, but in other areas, I feel like I'm pulling teeth to get them to finish an assignment or even to start it!  But, we do not give up.  We keep at it even when I want to quit. 

We have lessened some of our extra-curricular activities while adding a few things this year.  We've added some swimming lessons for a few.  We have a couple more dancers, but we've said no to other things that would have been unwise to pursue.  There are so many good opportunities, but if they cause us to be away from home so much that it means more leftover leftovers or a more insane mom, then, I'd have to say that those activities would be foolish. 

The children's characters?  I do see some good developments in each of my children's characters.  They are very loving kids and sincerely want to reach out to others, but many days I am discouraged by their lack of obedience to their parents and their lack of love for each other.  And, then, I become even more discouraged at my inconsistencies with them.  It's easy to wallow in the daily grind of micro-managing their lives, breaking up fights and stopping sometimes very dangerous behaviors, but we must not stay there.  We must pray for our children and seek the Lord's wisdom each day.

Marriage?  Yes, ladies.  This can be a tough one for me.  There.  I said it.  If an older lady ever pulls you aside to remind you that marriage is hard, believe her.  Some couples have great marriages.  Not without struggles, but they seem to have a lot going for them.  Other marriages are complete disasters and I grieve for them.  And, then, there are couples that go through some very difficult seasons.  Sometimes those seasons seem quite hopeless with no end in sight.  It could be for any number of reasons and often a combination of many.  Whatever the reasons, the root of the struggles boils down to two things.  Selfishness and pride.  This may seem over-simplistic.  It may even sound like I'm sugar-coating some very real issues, but I'm not.  God looks at the sins of selfishness and pride with great contempt.  Some very bad consequences result from these sins.  He has commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  He has told us to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind and if our pride gets in the way of this, we are in trouble and so are our marriages.  Of course, we are going to sin every day, but we need to be able to see it and with the Lord's help, we need to make some progress.  We should be very thankful when the Spirit convicts us of sin.  If we don't admit that we sin, we do not believe the Bible.  We do fall.  We do hurt our spouse, our children and any number of people, but we confess it, admit why it's so hard to do the right thing and we perservere.  One step forward, three steps back.  Yes, it may seem like that a lot.  We are never going to arrive in this life, but we continue to fight.

When we are experiencing difficulties in the marriage, we may not understand why our spouse is not acting in a manner that we think they should.  Perhaps we think we are really improving.  We've followed a formula in our mind and can't possibly see why our spouse is not doing the things we expect.  That is definitely not the time to tell your spouse, "I've made improvements.  I'm really doing better in some areas."   Let's leave that one to God.  Maybe you are having victory in some areas.  Great.  Thank Him for those victories and don't tell anyone else.  Do you know why?  I will tell you.  That's pride.  Yep.  There's that word again.  It's prideful for you to tell me how much you are improving.  So I may be nit-picking a bit.  We should encourage each other in our spiritual growth and in how we handle certain situations, but perhaps a better thing to say is, "There are things I don't feel like I struggle with as much as before because God is working on my heart."  Any good you may be doing for your marriage  It's God.

Another reason that this is not wise is because it comes across as unloving and also critical.  I know we can't always be responsible for how our words are taken, but we must strive to be loving.  When you tell your spouse how much you've improved, that communicates a short-coming in them, especially when what follows those words is the need for correction in their lives.  Guess what?  I'm pretty sure they see much of their failures.  We do need to hold each other accountable for our actions, but be very careful.  You may be right as rain, but are you loving?

Okay.  Here's the other reason why you should not tell your spouse or anyone else for that matter about how much you've improved.  We all have blind spots.  And, it could very well be that what you think you've improved is actually not as improved as you thought.  Ouch.  The moment when I start thinking, "Wow, girl.  You've got this thing down.  Time to speak at a marriage conference!", is the moment when my Heavenly Father is not pleased.  In my case, I more often put myself down for not keeping my mouth shut or simply for failing miserably in how to show love.  Or, I just make excuses as to why I can't do the right thing.  But, the sad truth is, we all think of ourselves a little too much.  I don't mean we should demean ourselves and forget who we are in Christ.  Although, a little sackcloth and ashes can go a long way!  Seriously, we have to remember that without Christ we are nothing and with Him, He is everything.  It is all about Him.  It's not about me, my husband, my children, this crazy home schooling adventure or the state of my house.  It's about Him.  When we forget that, our marriages suffer.  Our example to our children suffers.  And, our testimony suffers.  Now, of course, He doesn't need me to accomplish His will.  He will still get the glory no matter what I do, but if we say we love Christ, we need to show Him.  And, even that we can't do without Him!

So, I'm not writing tonight because I've got all the answers.  I really don't.  Oh, I could give a lot of cutesy advice about organization and curriculum or how to love your husband.  I could even provide an endless list of clever hashtags, but unless I'm doing well in these areas, I don't have anything to offer.  But, I do have this.  "As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.  Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God."  Do you remember who said this?  Job.  Yeah, that guy that nearly lost everything.  Later, he was chastised for questioning the Almighty.  And, it was beautiful.  Basically, who do we think we are to question who we are, who God is or why we struggle in this life?  God knows we want answers.  He understands our "why" questions, but we must not forget who He is and rest in that wonderful knowledge.  Everything begins and ends with Him.  This is why I can get through the hard times.  This is why I don't quit.  More of Him, less of me.  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What's Important?

As a little girl, I used to keep a diary from time to time.  Frequently, I would skip several days, even months of writing and every time I would finally write again, I would apologize to my diary.  Perhaps, I was really apologizing to myself for not being more consistent.  I'm still like this in many ways.  I am one to begin a project and either forget about it and never finish or I simply come back to it much later.  This is one area where I wish I could improve.  As a mom with many children, it is so easy to leave many unfinished projects.  Prioritizing which ones are the most important is also a challenge.

One of my newer projects that I've begun is writing a book.  A little presumptuous?  Maybe, but I am excited about it.  I have already learned so much as I've read, researched and spent time putting my thoughts to paper, or rather in a document on the computer.  I have always enjoyed writing.  I've always been able to express myself much better in writing than in talking.  Don't get me wrong.  I love to talk to people, but many times the words are just not there for what I really want to say.  At other times, I've had the opportunity of finding out what my shoe leather tastes like.  In writing, I am much more careful in what I choose to say.  I have more time to think before I write.  Perhaps, I should practice being careful in what I say when speaking to people, especially my own family.

So, where was I going?  See what I mean.  I am a very distracted person.  "Squirrel!"  This is why finishing things I start is a challenge.  This is why deciding what the most important priorities are and sticking to them can be so difficult.  Right now, I am looking at a huge pile of ironing that I've been neglecting.  Of course, I did do some laundry this morning, so that counts.  There are countless things that need to be done around my home, not to mention getting back into the routine of home schooling, but what are the most important things?  When we try to break it down to the most important things, we need to remember what God desires.  We can do many good things, but maybe we aren't focusing on the best things.

As a Christian, the most important priority is drawing closer to the Lord.  Spending time in His Word, talking to Him, listening to Him, and worshipping Him are the ways in which we can grow in our walk with Him.  I wish I had hours to simply focus on Him, but even though I can't do all of these things as much as I would like, I can draw closer to Him throughout the day.  During whatever menial tasks I am engaged in at the moment, I can pray, I can worship, I can recall Scripture. I find that my mind can be such a battlefield.  Fear, worry and complaining so easily invade my thoughts each day.  These things do not honor God.  Following the Lord is the hardest thing in life because we are constantly battling self.  Even in prayer, I battle these things.  My prayers can sometimes sound like a huge gripe session or many times, I am so distracted that I'm only thinking of what I need to do after I'm done talking with the Lord.  I need His help in prayer.  Only He knows what I truly need and only He can quiet my soul when everything else seems to be competing for my attention.
As a wife, my husband needs to be my next priority.  All too often, I only see the urgent needs of the children or my house that I forget him.  He needs an encouraging word, a loving touch, tasks done without complaining and even interrupting my own schedule to let him know that he is important to me.  It is much easier to roll my eyes or get irritated when I see he has needs, but when I die to myself and to my own agenda, my husband is blessed and God is glorified.  Now, there are times that other needs arise, pressing needs.  You know, like a fire on the stove or kids hanging off of the walls.  That's when Hubby has to take a backseat temporarily, but most of the time he is to come after God.  That's just how it's supposed to work. 

As a Mommy, my children are next in line.  Now obviously, they have some very visible needs.  Feeding them, keeping little ones clean, enforcing bedtimes and even keeping the house clean are needs that our children have.  Then there are the not so visible needs like comforting them, reassuring them, listening to their hopes and dreams and most importantly their need to know their Creator.  This need is in all of us, but as parents, we have the awesome privilege and responsibility to direct our children to their loving Creator.  They are watching us as we pray, as we worship and as we handle different situations that arise.  I tremble at the thought that I have such a direct influence on eight little lives in our home.  I thank the Lord everyday that even though I fail, that He can use me to point them to Him. 

As I think about our next priorities, I realize that this is where great discernment is needed.  Our neighbors, whether they be next door to us, those we worship with, those in our communities or even people throughout our country or around the world should be after our families.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ need to be encouraged.  Our next door neighbor may need a meal.  Those that need Christ need to hear the Gospel and need to see it being lived out in our lives.  The hungry need fed.  The persecuted Church needs our prayers.  There are so many ways that we as Christians can reach out and bring glory to God.  I said that great discernment is needed for a couple of reasons.  Sometimes in our zealous tendencies to "make a difference" in this world, we forget our first priorities.  Yes, I need to love my neighbor and be a living testimony for the Lord, but if my own relationship with the Lord, with my husband or my children fail, then these great intentions for God amount to nothing.  As home school moms, we can tend to be so busy outside the home, running our little darlings to educational experiences or even giving of our time to help those in the community that our homes actually suffer.  Our husband's and our children's needs can be put on the back burner.  Our houses will be ones of disorder which leads to frustration for its occupants.  Yes, I mean that we really should clean our homes from time to time!  On the flip side, when we hold to our schedules so religiously that there is no breathing room for anyone else, then we are wrong.  Our children need to see that there are others in this world besides themselves and Mom's precious schedule.  Sometimes, a gift of bread to a neighbor or welcoming an unexpected visitor into our home is more important than when we accomplish our math or English lessons.  We must be sensitive to the Lord's leading in all of these things.

Have you noticed where self has been placed?  Yes, last.  This is not an admonition to false humility.  Nor is it a chance for me to say, "See how humble I am?"  Of course, we must take care of ourselves, physically, mentally and all of the other "lys" that follow, but our Lord is always first, our husbands second, our children third and others fourth.  We cannot come before them.  I have not gotten a hold of this yet.  As I have said, the battle with self is fierce, but we must recognize where our place is.  Remember, in James 4:6, it says, "God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble".  And, in Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves".  We are reminded from Scripture again and again that God is to get all of the glory for everything and that we are to die daily to ourselves and our own ambitions.  We hear from the world and even other Christians how we need to take care of ourselves.  I get it all of the time when folks find out about our large family, which doesn't really seem that large to me.  "Oh, Honey.  You need to take some time for yourself!"  There's also been a focus on physical health that has crept into Christianity.  We hear it all of the time from the world.  Trying to stay young and living long lives have been idolized, but I'm seeing it more and more in the Church.  This will step on some toes, but an almost god-like quality has been given to things like essential oils, exercise, eating whole foods and so many other areas.  I am not saying these things are bad, but we need to be so cautious that we remember our quest is not to live healthier physical lives, but to be renewed in our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit.  So much time is given to getting back to a healthier lifestyle, but not much time is given to the Lord.  News flash!  We are dying.  Our bodies are just a shell for our eternal souls and I desire so much to devote my attention towards the eternal and not the temporal.  It all goes back once again to priorities.  What's important to you?  If good health is your god, than you are sinning.  If keeping everything perfectly organized is your god, stop it.  If your children or your husband come before God, you are wrong.  We need to get on our knees and repent of our idols.  We need to repent when our priorities are out of whack and when we have forgotten what is really important.  

So, I have finished writing this blog post.  Wow.  I finished something!  Seriously, writing today has been a good reminder to me of what my priorities should be.  May God help me to live it.  I long for Him to be my highest priority.  I want to love my husband, my children and my neighbors with the love of Christ.  May God be praised above all things.  Soli Deo Gloria!

"Therefore I urge you brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is.  That which is good and acceptable and perfect".  Romans 12:1-2

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Mother's Day Lesson

Every year, I try not to have too many expectations for Mother's Day.  I don't want to be disappointed or make it all about me. For one thing, on this day, I like to think of my own mother and all she means to me.  And, this day, although it is set apart to honor mothers reminds me of how thankful I need to be for my Heavenly Father who made it possible to have these precious ones that surround me.  He is the only reason I am a mother at all.  He is also the only reason that I can get through each day. 

I am thankful for each child He has given me and I most earnestly believe that each one is a blessing, but there are days that are very hard for me.  Days when I want to give up.  Days when I don't even like these kids.  *gasp*  No, I am not a perfect mother that has it all together.  So often, I run into people that find out how many kids we have and they say, "Wow, you must be so patient!"  "Oh yeah, that's me.  Patient Momma!"   Sometimes, I can't wait for an excuse to leave for a while.  I do think it is important to take breaks from the daily routine.  Moms need time alone with the Lord, time with a friend, time to be refreshed even with the smallest things.  I've been known to reward myself by lighting a candle or retreating to my room for a square of dark chocolate.  Of course, I only allow myself those things if I've done some task first.  "If I just empty the dishwasher or fold one load of laundry, then I can have a break."  These rewards and short breaks are healthy, but I find that when I'm particularly stressed out, I find multiple ways of escaping.  In fact, it probably takes more effort for me to escape then it would be to sit down with one or more of the children and play with them.  I find I put off correcting a behavior, because I want to escape so badly.  I don't often physically leave the house, but my mind checks out for a time.  It is very easy for me to get caught up listening to my classical music.  Utter chaos could be happening all around me, but I would rather ignore the chaos and be lost in the music.  And yet, I am also a person who gets easily distracted, therefore, I become angry because a child would dare to ask me a dozen questions while I'm listening to a symphony or a piano sonata!  How many times have I crushed a child's spirit because Mommy was too stressed to take the time to say, "I love you.  You are important to me?" 

When Mother's Day rolls around, it is so easy for me to expect the day to be nearly perfect and carefree.  After all, I deserve it!  Deep down, I know this is not realistic and oh, it's also a bit narcissistic.  The day I have worked out in my mind goes something like this:  I awake from a restful night of sleep and hear the children and my husband busy in the kitchen, making me breakfast.  No fighting, just happy joyful sounds of the family working together.  The dishes are done.  The living room straightened.  With the arrival of my breakfast on a tray, there are eight sweet children giving me a hug or a kiss and a big, "Happy Mother's Day!"  There is a beautiful store bought card and lots of handmade ones.  A big bouquet of flowers awaits me at the dining room table.  The sun is shining.  I'm feeling wonderful.  I mean, it could happen, right? 

To be fair, my husband and children do try to make Mother's Day special for me.  Some years are better than others.  This year, Mother's Day arrived after a long week of Mommy being at symphony chorus rehearsals and concerts every night.  Daddy was gone for part of the week on a business trip.  I was battling allergies and the emotions of performing and of it being the last concert weekend of the year. 

We began the tradition of going out to brunch for Mother's Day on the Saturday before, so we wouldn't have to battle the crowds of hungry, desperate mothers who didn't want to cook on Sunday!  But, this year, we just didn't have the time to do that with my concerts.  Instead, I went and had my hair done and spent time vocalizing and brushing up on the French I would be singing.  I was pleasantly surprised by a dozen roses that showed up at the door, too, from my dear family.

When Sunday rolled around, I was exhausted and hungry!  I forgot about making reservations for brunch, so we called my favorite restaurant to find out that it would be a long wait.  It was too late to make a reservation, so we would simply have to wait or we could hit a Chipotle or a McDonald's, but that didn't sound as good to me.  So, we put our name in and I waited in the restaurant with my laptop and did some writing.  My husband brought a movie for the kids to watch in the car.  We ended up not waiting as long as we originally thought and were seated.  The restaurant was much louder than I remembered which annoyed me.  Some of the kids were more difficult than usual, but all in all, it was a nice time.  Good food and I didn't have to cook.  By the time we left, however, I had one of my sinus headaches and was miserable.  My husband took me to pick up some hanging plants for the porch and then, we drove in the country for awhile and discovered some new roads close to home.  I really did enjoy the time with the family, but I wasn't feeling well.  Close to the kids' bedtime, my headache finally was easing and I thought it would be fun to go see a late night movie with my husband.  This is something we never do.  We placed our oldest daughter in charge and said goodnight to the kids and drove back to town.  We were the only ones in the theater. 

Then, there was today.  I woke up late and more exhausted than ever.  My older kids had overslept.  The sink and the counters were filled with dirty dishes.  The laundry in the washing machine had to be rewashed. It had sat there a few days because I had forgotten about it.  I wasn't feeling well again.  The younger children were acting out more than ever.  I just wanted to...ESCAPE!  I guess I did do just that when I threw myself into my work and listened to two Beethoven symphonies! I was glad to sit with the kids for our Bible time before lunch and made sure the older ones were practicing for their music lessons.  I planned my meals for the week and wrote down a grocery list for my husband.  I very much appreciated that he was willing to do the shopping this time.  But, you know what?  I still complained.  I can still hear myself mumbling under my breath about not getting more help.  Good grief.  I think I would have been in good company with those whining Israelites after God delivered them from Egypt.  And, all the while I could hear the Lord saying, "take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ."  Oh, and this one, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."  Yeah, I have much to take to the Lord.  I need to repent of my attitudes and my lack of thankfulness. 

If there's one thing I have learned this year, it's that Mother's Day is not about me.  It's about Him.  Everything is about Him.  I can't take another breath without Him.  I can't walk another step without Him.  I can do nothing without Him.

  "Dear God, please teach me to be thankful.  Teach me to be content.  Content with where You have placed me, where You have led me, and content with what You have given me.  And, above all, please teach me how to love You.  I don't know how.  I want to love my family, so that I can show my love for You.  You've given me this desire to follow You, but I need Your help every moment of the day.  Thank You for loving me.  Without Your love, I would be nothing."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Pressing On

Only a day or so passed after I wrote my last blog post.  I had written about our family's loss of focus during the Christmas season and our need to repent of our complaining and then, we all succumbed to a nasty flu virus!  It took a while, but we all recovered and then realized our December was fading quickly.  We did not get to bake as much as we wanted to.  We had fallen behind on wrapping and sending out cards, and had to cancel some of our plans for the month.  However, we were still thankful that we were not sick during our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day celebrations. It was a wonderful time of celebrating our Savior and being together as a family. 

We are now into the New year and in the middle of some of the coldest weather that Ohio has seen in quite some time.  Below zero temperatures and blowing drifting snow has been the new normal.  The children played in the snow a couple of times in November, but now?  There is no playtime outside.  Only chores and those have to be done as quickly as possible with the older children bundling up from head to toe. 

Winter is when we celebrate many of the children's birthdays.  It doesn't matter whose birthday is coming up because all of the kids look forward to these special days.  They help to cure some of the after Christmas and winter time blues. 

When it comes to our studies, some days I feel like we accomplish much, but then there are other days when I'm tempted to despair.  We have days where we seem to have interruption after interruption.  Phone calls, a very cranky toddler, a big spill or an overtired Mommy can disrupt our best laid plans.  I do try to be realistic on certain days.  Tuesdays are our music days.  It's when most of the music lessons occur and on those evenings, I go to choir practice.  We keep those days simpler with our focus being on Bible, music and reading.  This past Tuesday, we also allowed more time for our animals.  We had another cold front moving through that evening, so that was the best day for the farrier to trim the horses' hooves and a good day for our friend to deliver extra hay.  Studies were not as important as getting our animals ready for another several days of extreme cold.  So, even when more things than usual get added to our already busy days, we just have to thank the Lord for more opportunities to serve Him.  And, we just keep pressing on.

We've had times where a child or two cannot seem to grasp a concept and therefore will fall behind where I'd like them to be.  We're actually going through that right now.  It can be discouraging to both parent and child, but we know it won't last forever.  They will eventually get it.  At those times, I pray that God will give me a balance between taking a break, but also getting down to the nitty gritty and grilling those concepts.  I've found that breaks can be quite effective.  I also like to encourage the kids to study topics they love, not just what I think is important for them to know.  And, then, after a break from whatever subject is giving us a problem, we take a deep breath and try again.  We don't study math, science or grammar for us.  We don't study to keep up with those around us.  We don't study so we'll land the perfect job one day. We study because God made it all.  He's a God of order, constancy, and beauty.  Everything we study shows us just a little more of His glory.  It's because of this that we press on. 

Life is hard.  We all can be discouraged by an interruption to our schedule, sickness, confusion or even the loss of someone close to us, but we press on.  We must press on.  Not in our strength, but His.  This is obedience to our Heavenly Father.  We show our love for Him when we look to Him for our every need and then, continue to press on.  We have a high calling.  It is Jesus.

"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do:  forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."  Philippians 3:13-14

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Where Is Our Focus?

Ah!  It's that time of year again. Christmas music fills the house.  Favorite recipes are found and pantries are stocked with the necessary ingredients.  The Christmas tree is cut and decorated.  Presents are being purchased, wrapped and hidden in secret places.  The family is in good spirits, singing, laughing, and smiling.  But, there's a problem.  Yes, the music is playing.  Good smells from the kitchen are filling the house.  The tree is beautiful and the idea of presents has the children giddy and excited, but I have to admit, we're not always smiling and in good spirits.

Over the last few weeks, there's been bickering, complaining, and worry.  The little ones have been downright naughty.  The older children have had problems with bad attitudes and I hear myself complain about the most trivial things.  Of course, the children are very good at mimicking their mother, but when I see it in them, it annoys me.  I worry about money.  I worry as I never seem to have the time to do anything else besides the basics of dishes, laundry and cooking.  Home schooling is being done, but on some days, we definitely don't accomplish my goals for the day.  Oh, the kids are learning, but I do tend to have goals that are a bit lofty for this time of year. 

Last week, my evenings were filled with rehearsals and concerts for the symphony chorus as we presented our "Holiday Pops" for the community.  It's always a great experience for me to sing in this group and the concerts definitely helped to get us in the mood for the season, but on the down side, my husband and kiddos had more responsibilities and missed the presence of Mom in the evenings.  I am also completely spent. 

One decision we made a long time ago that has helped us was to limit the number of gifts for each child to three.  Three gifts were given to Baby Jesus by the Wise Men, so we thought that would be a good number.  As our family has added more children, even three was still too much, so we are down to two each with that third gift being for a family in need or extra funds being given to an orphan ministry that we support.  The older children help to contribute to this and they are all beginning to understand how the needs of others are much greater than our own.  This year, we sent bags of rice and gifts of Bibles.  We felt it was essential to not only help to fill these orphans' bellies, but also to feed their souls.  I would still like to see us give so much more, but it's a start. 

This is a wonderful time of year, but only when we can keep the focus off of ourselves and most importantly when we remember how much God has done for us.  Of all of the needs that we have, the need for a Savior who came and took our place on that cross was the greatest.  We could have never saved ourselves or faced a holy God without Jesus.  His love is beyond all comprehension.  I am so thankful at this time of year, but every day when I remember His great love for us. 

So, I think there's some repentance in order for the complaining and bickering that our family has done lately.  We also need to repent of our lack of thankfulness and our focus being on anything but Jesus.  After the gifts are unwrapped, the tree is down and the goodies are eaten, we still have Him.  He is all we need.  He is all we will ever need. 

"Joy to the world, the Lord has come,
Let earth receive her King.
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and Heaven and nature sing."

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Embracing God's Design

Before she entered the room, the young home school mom thought she had come to the wrong place. Peering in through the window of the door in the meeting room, she observed other ladies that she felt looked the part. One woman was shifting uncomfortably in her chair, dressed in a suit with a briefcase on the floor beside her. Another woman with a very short haircut and flawless make-up and nails was typing away on her laptop. A younger lady in jeans and a T-shirt was hurriedly texting someone on her phone. And, then there was Katie, the home school mom, dressed in her jumper and holding her notebook and pen. She did not want to go in. She wasn't quite ready to admit that she was very much like the others, that she struggled with some of the same thoughts. She then remembered the discussions she had with her husband, the Scripture she had been reading and the gentle prompting of the Holy Spirit that led her to this place. She scolded herself for looking down on the other women she saw and realized that she did not know their stories. Each one of them was there to support one another. Katie asked the Lord to forgive her for judging the others, took a deep breath and walked into the room.

This was Katie's first time at a meeting like this and she felt the butterflies in her stomach growing more restless. Would she be able to utter the words that the other ladies around her were saying? All she had to do was add her name, and the rest of the words should come easy. She continued to hear each woman introduce themselves and then admit that they too had bought into the same lie. After what seemed like hours, it was finally Katie's turn. With as much courage as she could muster, she said, "Hi, I'm Katie...and I'm a feminist."

Okay, to my knowledge, I don't believe there actually is a "Feminists Anonymous" although in the blogosphere, there are a few sites that are either committed to disclosing the lies of feminism with the name of "Feminist Anonymous" or they are committed to supporting feminism. But, what if there was? Would Christian women go to the meetings? Would we finally admit that all of us struggle with feminism?

Growing up in the 70's and 80's, I heard about feminism and the women's liberation movement. As a Christian, I saw how destructive it was to our society and to the family, but when I thought about feminism, I only thought of the extreme side of it: Those who fought against God's design for women. Those that wanted to denounce the differences between men and women. Those who campaigned for "equal pay and equal treatment", running over anyone that was in their path. Those who rejected the importance of marriage and family and instead embraced a career and a life unto themselves.  Those who fought for the right to murder the unborn.  I only thought of feminism as something that a non-Christian would support. I mean, what Christian woman would be feminist?

The problem with only seeing feminism as an extreme idea or as something that only an unbeliever would support is that we place the blame on others and do not see that we are all guilty of this evil thinking.  And, I say evil, because the roots of feminism go back to Eden.  When Eve listened to the Serpent who questioned what God had said to the first couple, she ceased to believe God.  She denied the authority that God had over her and the natural result of this was to rebel against the authority that God had placed over her through Adam.  God's design of man's headship over woman was not one of cruelty.  It was a beautiful thing that ultimately pointed to the headship that Christ has over His Church.  We are all subject to authority.  The head of man is Christ, the head of woman is man, the head of children are parents, but we are all subject to the Lord Christ.  When we fight this, we fight God. 

As I have pointed out, feminism has its roots from the Garden of Eden, but we have seen waves of feminism throughout our history.  During early Bible times, the times of the Roman Empire, the beginnings of the "women's movement" in the late 18th century and up to now, there has been feminism weaved into the culture.   Jennie Chancey from Ladies Against Feminism has a very helpful and concise article explaining the beginnings and meanings of feminism.

Also, Matt Walsh has written from a different angle in that he states men and women are not equal. Yes, we have all been made in the image of God.  We all have value which comes from the Lord and as Christians, we are "fellow heirs of the grace of life."  I Peter 3:7  But, we are not equal, meaning, we are not the same.  God has designed us with different roles.

So, maybe after taking a closer look at the roots of feminism and witnessing how it has permeated into today's culture, we can better understand how it has affected all of us.  It has definitely influenced us in one way or another, but do we see that it is a constant struggle for even those of us who know the Lord?  Do we see that as Christians we need the work of the Holy Spirit to fight the desire that we have to rebel against God's design for us?

It is so easy to point the finger at those who look or act the part of a feminist, but do we wives see that every time we disrespect our husbands, whether it's in front of our children, other people, or even behind our husband's back, we are dishonoring the Lord?  We need to be careful even when words are said in jest. What we say to and about our husband can greatly affect future marriages. It can hurt our husband and it can affect how our children look at him.  Being disrespectful is a terrible example to our daughters as to how to act towards the man that God gives them one day.  I am ashamed at how many times I have done this very thing.  There have been times when my husband was reminded of passages from Proverbs where it says,  "A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike",(Proverbs 27:15), or "It is better to live in a corner of a roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman",(Proverbs 21:9).  No, our husbands do not always act in a way that pleases the Lord.  They sin.  They hurt us, but we are to live in forgiveness, lifting them up to the Lord each day.  We need to share when we are hurt or when we struggle to do as they ask, but we can do this in a way that is not hateful.  God did not command that we respect our husbands when they deserve it.  Turn that around.  God commands the husband to love his wife and to give himself up for her.  If we were loved only when we deserved it, we would not be loved very much.  God loves us unconditionally and He expects us to love our spouses in the same way.  "That's next to impossible," you say.  "You don't know MY husband!"   No one understands the relationships we have with our husbands, but, God's Word does not change.  When we live according to His Word, He is honored, our marriage and our family functions in the way that God intended and the Gospel of Christ is proclaimed loud and clear.  When we are out and about, people notice that our lives are different.  Many times, this opens up excellent opportunities to share the love of Christ with others. 

This is an area in my life that can be a huge challenge at times.  Just as an alcoholic cannot go back to taking a drink from time to time, I as a recovering feminist cannot go back to this line of thinking.  I must die daily to myself and to my desires for control and to submit my will to Christ.  This can only come from the power of God's Holy Spirit.  I must not expose myself to feminist thinking that is generated so incessantly in movies, in music or in books.  I need to be careful who influences my life.  I must be in God's Word.  I must be on my face before Him and I must step out on faith during those times that feminism rears its ugly head.  I pray that God will help me to embrace His design and not my own and I pray that my marriage reflects Christ and His Church. I want my life to always give glory to Him.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Resting in His Word

It has been a whole week since we said goodbye to the little one I was carrying.  Recovery has been slow.  Besides dealing with grief, I was suffering with terrible headaches and exhaustion.  The headaches are subsiding, but I find I am still very tired.  I know to expect this, but it's still difficult when I'm used to bouncing back and managing the household.  My husband and older children have been doing most of the tasks and I am thankful for their help.  It's not easy for them.  The little ones don't get as much "Mommy" time as they are used to getting, so sometimes, they misbehave just a little more.  My husband has to keep up with things from work and still is making sure I am cared for and the house is running smoothly. 

I rest mostly, but I have been trying to get up and around more, setting small goals for each day.  I plan at least once a day to walk to my flower gardens or check the mail.  Yesterday, I threw the ball back and forth with our dog.  Annie was a bit surprised when I quit only a few minutes into our game.  I will sit and fold socks, get up to throw a load of laundry into the dryer or make my way to the living room to read to the children.  Today, I may iron a shirt or two.  Or maybe not.  Writing helps me a great deal, but I am so thankful for the times in the Word most of all.  That communion with my Heavenly Father is sweet and healing.  I desire that these times in His Word will continue.  Even when I'm back to my busy schedule again, I want to remember how much I need to hear from Him.  It was His Word that gave me the strength and the peace to get through our recent struggle and it is His Word that reminds me to rejoice every day.  I need His direction.  I need to seek Him when I'm planning my lessons, when I am correcting a child, when I am performing a mundane task or when I am dealing with doubt and fear.  God is so good and so loving.  I am thankful for His Word that cements this truth into my heart. 

"O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day."  Psalm 119:97